A new EU rule on driving cars from Switzerland across the border to France is causing confusion among hire car companies and holidaymakers.
If you’ve booked, or are planning to book, a hire car from Geneva airport intending to drive to the French Alps you’ll need to check with the company that you can pick it up from the French side of the airport.
The new EU law, which came into force on 1 May, seems to ban EU nationals from renting a car outside the EU (i.e. in Switzerland) then driving it in the EU. Complaints have sprung up on web forums in the last week that people have arrived to pick up a pre-booked hire car at Geneva and been told they can’t take it if they’re driving to France, or asked to sign a waiver basically voiding their insurance if they do.
We rang Europcar at Geneva Airport to clarify, but they cryptically said they were ‘waiting for instructions on this’ but it was still possible to rent at the moment. On the other hand, Alamo told us the new law meant it wasn’t possible to hire from them and drive to France, and we’d have to contact sister company Enterprise who have a desk on the French side of the airport.
One TripAdvisor forum poster wrote on May 6: “I was at The Alamo counter at Geneva Airport this morning. The representative asked if I was going to France, I replied yes and he pointed at a freshly prepared sign which in effect said that from 1st May 2016, unless I would be driving to my main residence I was not allowed to take the car out of Switzerland. The Alamo rep then refused to hire my pre booked and paid for rental. I got an expensive taxi ride instead. This is a desperate situation which needs sorting quickly. Let’s face it in the ski and summer season over half the rental fleet will be going to France from the Swiss side of the airport.”
On the other hand, another wrote: “A call to a major rental company said that it is no problem to rent a car in Switzerland and drive it over to France and bring it back. Did you need it for more than 8 days? The law or rather the amendment to the existing law they refer to, has nothing to do with rental cars.”
It seems this is a law targeting customs and car fraud, which has unintentionally affected holidaymakers, and it may be that the problem gets cleared up and the EU issues further advice. However, for the moment we advise you contact your car rental company if you’ve booked, and if you’re planning to book choose a company that operates from the French side of the airport. Also be aware that if you drive out of the French side and onto Swiss autoroutes you’ll need to buy a ‘vignette’ at the border for about €40(or avoid the motorways).